The World Health Organization on Tuesday advised pregnant women not to travel to areas affected by the Zika virus outbreak, saying the new advice was issued amid mounting evidence that Zika can cause birth defects.
“Pregnant women should be advised not travel to areas of ongoing Zika virus outbreaks,” the UN agency said in a statement released after an emergency committee meeting on the rapid spread of the mosquito-borne virus.
Previous WHO guidelines called for pregnant women to be warned of the risk of travel to Zika-hit areas.
WHO noted that the link between Zika and microcephaly, a severe deformation of the brain among newborns, has not yet been definitively proven.
But WHO chief Margaret Chan told reporters that “we do not have to wait until we have definitive proof” before advising pregnant women against travel.
“Microcephaly is now only one of several documented birth abnormalities associated with Zika infection during pregnancy,” she said.
“Grave outcomes include foetal death, placental insufficiency, foetal growth retardation, and injury to the central nervous system,” she added.
Chan described the latest research on Zika as “alarming,” including growing evidence that the virus causes the severe neurological disorder Guillain-Barre Syndrome.